Cougar long snapper is among the elite

ZACH ENYEART

PULLMAN -- C'mon. Admit it. You do it. I do it. We all do it. One ball after another after another gets snapped flawlessly on extra points, field goals and punts, and no one gives a second thought to who might be delivering the ball. Let just one snap go awry, however, and everyone in the stadium wants to know, "Who's that pathetic long snapper?"

At Washington State, the man in question is Zach Enyeart. And by all accounts, he's a long snapper of uncommon excellence.

A junior out of Skyline High School in Sammamish, Enyeart has handled all the long snapping duties at WSU the past two years -- with very few missteps -- after sharing some of the workload his redshirt freshman year with Tony Thompson.

The affable, easy-going Enyeart makes no pretense about being some sort of elite athlete. His singular skill can be vital to a team's success, however, and he is aware that a lucrative pro career may await him after college.

"I try not to focus on that," Enyeart said. "I'm trying to just have a good time here with Reid (punter Reid Forrest).

"I want him at the top of the nation at the end of the year in punting average. The better he looks, the better I look."

Both players look awfully good right now, since Forrest ranks among the nation's best, averaging 44.7 yards per punt.

"He's probably the top snapper in the league (Pac-10) … he's helped me out tremendously," said Forrest, who not only punts for the Cougs but also is the holder for field goals and PATs.

REID FORREST

"I think Zach is as good as there is out there," coach Paul Wulff said. "His speed of his snap and his general accuracy is really, really good.

"He could probably snap in the NFL. He definitely has enough velocity to be able to do that."

Enyeart said he's been long snapping since he started playing football in the third grade. According to Enyeart, his job in college isn't a whole lot more complicated than it was in third grade, when his coach (Bruce Wasson, now an assistant coach at Skyline) provided the basic instructions that Enyeart follows to this day.

"All he told me is, ‘Hold the ball with one hand -- with your throwing hand -- with your other hand on top just as a guide hand. Just throw your hands straight back.'

"That's basically the simplest way I can put it," Enyeart said. "All you do is hold it as naturally as you can, then just throw the ball straight back. Don't try to spin the ball. Don't try to do anything fancy."

One part of Enyeart's job that is far more demanding in college than in third grade -- or in high school, for that matter -- takes place immediately after the snap. After all, there were no snarling 300-pound defensive players lined up inches away from Enyeart's facemask in Pee Wee football.

How on earth do long snappers not get knocked on their backside each and every time they get done snapping the ball?

"When you throw the ball through (between the legs), you slide your feet, too, so you gain ground," Enyeart explained.

"An average slide would be 6-12 inches, somewhere around that. So you're gaining an extra foot, which is just enough time to get your head up and get back.

"You've got to focus on the snap first, then get back and try to set a base and try to stop their momentum."

Enyeart went on scholarship for the first time this fall, which he finds rather amazing. After all, this is a man so unknown to most fans and so buried in the middle of the line during the few moments he plays each week that his grandmother expressed her desire for the Cougars to sew Enyeart's name on the seat of his football pants so she can locate him easier.

"I never, ever thought I would play college football and long snap in college," Enyeart said. "I always thought I was a better baseball player. I loved the game of baseball so much, and I had pretty good success growing up."

Still, Enyeart received no scholarship offers in baseball or football, although NCAA Division III Linfield expressed interest him as a center and long snapper. Enyeart was a first-team All-Kingco center on Skyline's undefeated state champions in 2005, and he was a hard-hitting catcher and first baseman.

Encouraged by then-Skyline football coach Steve Gervais, Enyeart threw some videotapes together and sent them to WSU, Washington, Oregon, Oregon State, Montana and Montana State. The Cougars and Ducks invited him to walk on, and Enyeart said it was easy to settle on the Cougars.

"Oregon had four snappers on their roster," he said with a smile, "and WSU had none."

Forrest said Enyeart delivers the ball with unusual speed, which provides Forrest with valuable extra nanoseconds to launch his kicks.

"He works hard at it, too," Forrest said. "He definitely worked hard to get where he's at, and I appreciate that probably more than anyone."

Enyeart said he never had the slightest interest in playing on the offensive line in college for one simple reason: "I didn't want to weigh 295 pounds." It is not without a certain amount of pride that Enyeart says he "never did a single offensive line drill" with the Cougars, even when he first arrived in Pullman.

"They were going to try to make me play on the O-line, but I just didn't want to gain the weight," the 6-foot-1, 240-pound Enyeart said.

"I went to the offensive line meetings for two weeks, then I went into Yarno's office (George Yarno was WSU's offensive line coach at the time) and I'm like, ‘Hey, Coach, I'm not even practicing with you guys. Everything you're talking about in there is like French to me, so care if I just focus on my long snapping?'"

Yarno gave his approval, and ever since, football has been a snap for Enyeart.

"Behind every good man is a good woman," Forrest said, "and behind every good punter is a good snapper."

NOTABLE NOTES:

  • The Cougars (1-4) return home this weekend to face Arizona State (2-2). The Devils are 20-point favorites. Kickoff is set for 2 pm. There will be no TV coverage.

  • Of the 114 players on WSU's roster, only 37 have been on the team more than two years. The 37 includes six fifth-year seniors and 15 total players who have earned more than one varsity letter.

  • After ASU, the Cougars will have their only bye week of the season. But there will be no rest for the players -- practices that Tuesday and Wednesday will start at 6 a.m.
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